With Clinical Trials Still In Their Early Stages, Many Individuals And Families With Autism Are Turning Towards Cannabis For Help.
Most states have legalized cannabis for medical use, including 14 states that have approved cannabis for autism, but it still is illegal at the federal level in the U.S. With the lift in restrictions, more and more people are open to trying cannabis-based products to deal with symptoms associated with autism like seizures and irritability. While clinical trials on this are still in its infancy, many individuals with autism and their families report that they have had positive results with little to no side effects.
At this time, there are only two medications that are approved by the FDA for children with autism who have significant disruptive behaviors or irritability: Risperdal (risperidone) and Abilify (aripiprazole). These medications are very effective in reducing autistic meltdowns, aggressions, and the risk of self-injuries. The problem is their side effects. Some of the side effects noted include gaining weight, putting them at risk for metabolic issues like type 2 diabetes. Other common side effects include motor issues and sedation. Cannabinoids may have fewer side effects than risperidone or aripiprazole.
Research has found that cannabinoid compounds usually work by restoring the brain’s excitation/inhibition balance. Another mechanism of action for cannabinoids is in regulating immune-inflammatory pathways. In animal models of autism, CBD has actually shown benefits in reducing seizures and appetite, improving social function and cognition, decreasing repetitive behaviors, and more. There are plenty of ongoing studies to understand if CBD can help with irritability, disruptive behaviors, and to determine if there is any improvement regarding repetitive behaviors. The FDA is the main barrier to making CBD-based treatments mainstream and if the product contains THC, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will need to approve as well.
Legislation has gotten way ahead of the knowledge base and controlled clinical trials with these kinds of compounds for different conditions. There’s a need for more studies, both for efficacy and safety.
There is just one CBD preparation, Epidiolex, which has been approved by the FDA.
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